Public art: Hairy Maclary meets Gareth Morgan


The wonderful thing about Tauranga is that vilification of the creative project promoter is egalitarian. Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell, the recently retired CEO of Creative Tauranga must have experienced a degree of personal affirmation at the spectrum of negative reaction to the Gareth Morgan-proposed public art project.

Before we unveil them

Before we unveil them

While The Hairy Maclary and Friends Waterfront Sculpture Project has instantly become part of the fabric and legend of Tauranga’s Waterfront getting it there was no mean feat on the part of Rudduck-Gudsell and her Creative Tauranga team. The final installation of the project is also a tribute to many of the Tauranga commercial, business and service groups who despite the selective persistent public opposition to the project, the funding hiccups and ever-lengthening proposed installation date, eventually stumped up the cash. During the arduous journey to completion many treated Ms Rudduck-Gudsell as if all of this was her personal fault ignoring the initial and ongoing involvement of major service groups and territorial authorities in the initiating, organising and selection process of the sculptor.

Was it worth it? John Cousins, Bay of Plenty Times Reporter on Monday, August 1 2015 in the Local News Section of the paper wrote:

Sculptor Brigitte Wuest

Sculptor Brigitte Wuest

Bronze statues of Hairy Maclary and his irresistible pals have triggered huge community interest with more visitors in the first four days since they were unveiled than normally visited Tauranga’s waterfront in two weeks…..Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell said the interest had been phenomenal including nearly 81,000 visits to the Hairy Maclary sculptural Facebook page in the first few days…..(including) people from Poland and Indonesia.”

Since, or as a result of the cauldron of public discussion about the commercially sensible decision to honour the internationally known and read works of Tauranga children’s author Dame Lynley Dodd, Tauranga City Council has developed a “Public Arts Policy Advisory Group.” I made a submission as part of this process. Most probably the aspect of ‘public art’ that I’m most interested in is the ability of the public to see and participate in the process as early as possible. No I’m not looking for consensus decisions about every lick of paint, piece of bronze or fibreglass that hits territorial authority owned or controlled land or buildings. It would just be nice if ‘consultation’ and ‘inclusion’ had some real meaning.

Marcus Wilkins and Dame Lynley Dodd

Marcus Wilkins and Dame Lynley Dodd

The internet and Facebook make this so possible. It’s farcical that information about projects suggested to be funded with community provided money aren’t out-there from the word go. “It’s because of the Privacy Act” Really? If someone is proposing a project using public money you’d think ‘the public’ would be allowed to see who and whom was suggesting what, where and how much. Apparently not.

The definition of ‘public art’ in Tauranga is currently limited to anything on anything and anywhere that is owned or controlled by the territorial authority. Don’t panic, I’m sure someone will eventually have it extended to ‘anything that can be seen by the public’ – that was the definition suggested to me as necessary to protect we, the educationally limited and creatively ignorant, from anything obscene, shocking or nasty.

Gareth Morgan may not have been aware of the tribulations and invective attracted by Ms Rudduck-Gudsell as the public face of The Hairy Maclary Project. But then, Mr Morgan may not have cared how the good people of Tauranga behave to independent thought and proposals. Self-employment and money (self and family made) provide Morgan with a certain shield against public abuse and intellectual egg-throwing.

whiskers-samThe proponent of policies and laws controlling New Zealand domestic cats, checking the aged are still capable of voting while encouraging the youth of the country to block vote to ensure we greedy oldies don’t gobble up their created wealth and, greater acknowledgement of tangata whenua, Morgan is unloved by some sections of the wider New Zealand community. My suggesting that many who have made the money he has are off buying yachts, tight trousers and young women rather than thinking about the wider future development of New Zealand is taken as suggesting certain historical dictators had a good-side. But, Morgan does what we are all supposed to do – drag ourselves away from the cooking shows, the house renno shows, the Kardashian’s handbags, social media and the television news: he thinks: – poor man! And he is thinking and expressing opinions about New Zealand.

I was alerted by one of the ARTbop contributors to Gareth Morgan’s suggestion, that he be allowed to remove two mature pohutukawas, install a kinetic sculpture instead and receive council funding for footpath realignment Did I think the plan would go ahead? Removing the iconic coastal tree of New Zealand (an exotic weed of elsewhere) – most probably not? A rich man wanting Council funding for a personally initiated project – well?

The hoo-ha was intense. Morgan the cat-hater became Morgan the cat-hater who doesn’t even live in Tauranga. Ms Rudduck-Gudsell must have smiled. Tauranga newspapers must have clapped their collective hands with glee – a story! I listened to and read the objections which included that the statue itself was an inappropriate construction for the site because of its corner location. It was a traffic attention diverter, a moving and light flashing edifice in an urban area. Wouldn’t these issues have been considered by “The Public Arts Advisory Committee of the Tauranga City Council” who apparently thought the proposed sculpture was a goer? For the Council it was seemingly more for the cost of the footpath alterations that negated the appearance of the sculpture.

Having submitted to the Public Arts Advisory Group proposal, I wanted to know how the process had operated and whether the apparently inherently-acceptable art work could be alternatively placed. So I emailed Gareth Morgan through his charitable foundation.

Confirming my suspicion that the very successful are also the very on to it – Morgan immediately emails me back. His email makes me laugh. Not at him, or about the project he (or he through his architect) proposed but at the comprehensive and egalitarian way tiny town Tauranga behaves about creativity, museums, art galleries, public art projects, public art, private art and “we certainly don’t want a replica waka on our waterfront” (but that’s another story). We don’t care who or what you are. I’m amazed there aren’t roadblocks across the main access roads to Tauranga to keep ideas out.

Most disconcerting are the personally abusive comments particularly the suggestion that Morgan does not live in Tauranga. Morgan or an entity he is interested in own and pay rates on a property in the district and as far as I’m aware Gareth Morgan is a New Zealander. No I’ve never met him, no I don’t like his moustache, no I haven’t heard Rosalie Crawford’s interview with him, no I have no idea whether the Council and Morgan (or Morgan’s architect) have negotiated any other agreement about the statue.

I was interested in the process and also how we as a community react to creative arts and public arts proposals. I was interested in the process used to initiate the Hairy Maclary Project. I’m interested in how we as a community can be better and more realistically informed about proposed creative projects. And a museum? We’re still fighting about that.

Photo0415Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.


About Author

Leave A Reply